Great strides have been made in our understanding of cancer in the last 30 years because of research – much of which is funded by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). “In the 1970s, cancer was seen as a singular problem,” says Dr. David Huntsman, Canada Research Chair in molecular and genomic pathology and CCS board member. “It was thought that if you had a powerful enough magic bullet, it could treat all cancers. Now, through research, it’s understood that cancers are not just defined by where they occur in the body, but there are multiple subtypes – these are distinct diseases requiring distinct and sometimes personalized treatments.”
Treatment now involves tailored approaches such as targeted therapy, which uses drugs to find specific abnormal molecules in cancer cells, or novel approaches that harness the power of the immune system to fight cancers to slow growth. These treatments are proving to be more effective and less toxic than older chemotherapies.
While effective treatment is vital, the best-case scenario is to avoid cancer altogether. The biggest risk factor for cancer is age. With Canada’s aging population, it’s vitally important to prevent cancer where we can and support those who survive and live with it – yet not enough investment is being dedicated to these bookends of the cancer continuum.
A key element of CCS’s future mission includes a deeper investment in these two bookends of prevention and survivorship. In Vancouver, CCS is building a new Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support. The centre will be dedicated to accelerating the translation of discoveries in cancer prevention and support into applications that will benefit the health of all Canadians.
This national virtual centre will bring us closer to a future where no Canadian fears cancer.
“To continue to tackle cancer as a society requires an approach that encompasses fundamental science and more applied research. The goals are improved prevention, earlier detection, better treatment and long-term survivorship,” says Dr. Huntsman. “This is where CCS plays its most pivotal role – tying together all the pieces across the country and through the whole cancer continuum. Relentlessly pursuing this progress will enable Canadians to keep living longer, healthier, meaningful lives.”
Thanks to generous donors, the CCS plays a critical part in developing the knowledge that underpins this progress.
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